As a digital agency, it is in our natural interest to be informed about global trends and user behavior on social media. This is the only way we can provide our customers with holistic advice and successfully pursue international strategies.

In this and the following blogposts, we want to focus on China and take a closer look at the most popular apps there. We would like to thank our colleague Xiaobei Wu for her insights.

WeChat

WeChat makes the start. This name is often mentioned in the same breath as WhatsApp, namely when the user figures of messenger apps are compared. But China's No. 1 is much more than that.

Millions use it
According to statista.com, WeChat had 1.29 billion monthly active users worldwide in the first quarter of 2022. The vast majority of these are Chinese or residents of China. WhatsApp and other globally popular services are blocked in China, so many Chinese living abroad also use WeChat to communicate with their relatives in China.

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Functions
Personal communication takes place via the dialog functions, similar to WhatsApp, Signal and Co. via text and voice messages, (video) calls and the exchange of files.

Unlike WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and comparable apps, both contacts have to agree to WeChat in order to add each other as friends. Only then is the exchange of messages possible. WeChat is therefore more private. However, there are many people who use WeChat as a tool for daily work to easily contact customers and other business-related people. Thus, privacy is ultimately not much of an issue. Contacts are quickly added and just as quickly deleted.

Where WhatsApp is already finished with the functions, the functionalities of WeChat go even further: The app actually regulates the whole life!

WeChat Moment
Similar to the timeline on Facebook or the Instagram feed, Moment (朋友圈) is used to share photos, videos and posts with your network. Other user can leave comments and give likes underneath.

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WeChat Pay
Not only is it the most widely used social app in China, but it also makes users lives more convenient in many ways. For example, the bank card can be deposited, and many people in China are less and less likely to carry cash, but simply pay via QR code with WeChat Pay when shopping or eating out. It is no exaggeration to say that even beggars on the street offer the QR code from WeChat as a payment option to make it easier for passers-by to donate.

In addition, WeChat offers many other functions that are helpful in everyday life: For example, users can use it to pay insurance premiums and all kinds of other bills; make appointments (even at the hospital); store social security numbers; access medical information; organize transportation and travels (tickets, accommodations, rental cars, cab rides); and even shop online.

WeChat Business: Advertising and Corporate Applications
In China, WeChat enjoys very active usage and great loyalty - people would not want to do without the app in their lives. Of course, this also makes it exciting for companies, whether as advertisers, for external communication or for internal applications. After an elaborate creation and verification process, many features are available to businesses through an official WeChat account.

With a business WeChat account, companies can promote their brands to hundreds of millions of WeChat users through WeChat channels. There is no additional cost per message sent, allowing companies to significantly reduce their advertising spend. Users can follow a company's platform to interact with its brand.

Interesting posts from companies are forwarded low-threshold by users, which is a great help in maintaining existing users and attracting new ones.

Let's take a closer look at the three different account types for businesses:

Subscription account
The subscription account offers a new way of information dissemination for media and individuals. The main function of the subscription account is dissemination of current information on the WeChat page (the function is similar to that of newspapers and magazines that disseminate news or entertainment articles).
The platform is open to individuals (e.g., influencers), media, businesses, government agencies, or other organizations. With a subscription account, one message can be sent per day. This is displayed in the dialog bar in a separate subscription folder, without push notification and thus less prominent than messages from service accounts, which are described below. Companies that want to use the platform to send time-specific messages or advertisements choose a subscription account.

The Service Account
The service account is the first choice for companies that sell services or products and want to provide good customer service via messaging, e-commerce and mini-programs (see below). This type of account is open to media, business, government or other organizations and is therefore not suitable for individuals.
The service account can send four group messages within a month. The content published in this way is sent directly to the user in the form of a dialog box and with a notification. The big difference between a subscription account and a service account is that the latter can use the WeChat payment function.

WeChat Work
WeChat Work is a professional office management tool for businesses. It is used for internal communication and the chat feature is comparable to apps like Slack or Discord. WeChat Work is installed separately: Private communication via WeChat remains separate from business communication. However, messages can be sent to and received from WeChat. A wealth of free office applications such as task lists, work reports, clocking in/out or expense management, mini-programs (see below), WeChat Pay and more enable businesses to operate efficiently. This account type is mainly targeted at Chinese companies.

Mini programs
Mini programs are relatively new and built on existing (some open source) frameworks. They can be used with Service and WeChat Work accounts. They are called mini because their size must not exceed 10 MB. They are apps that do not need to be downloaded and can only be used within WeChat. Third-party developers program the apps themselves, which opens up a lot of opportunities for companies to customize their appearance. The mini-programs can be easily purchased/retrieved by users and distributed within WeChat. Companies that want to operate an online store, for example, can use such a mini-program for this purpose. Or for WeChat Work, the aforementioned transmission and approval of expenses is an application example, if the function is individualized for the company. In 2021, the number of monthly active users of mini-programs reached 450 million.

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Are you interested in becoming active on WeChat? Feel free to contact us!

Next time we'll talk about Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok.